My sister and her best friend went to Ireland recently—it was Colleen’s first international trip, and while her bestie Vic is about as organized and compulsive as I am about travel stuff, it got me thinking (and imparting a lot of not-asked-for wisdom) for their trip. Most people can bumble through a trip to any country, thanks to smartphones and easily accessed information. But after traveling for a few years with a team of six, I realized there’s a huge difference between getting through travel and traveling efficiently.
Basically, efficient travel depends on 2 key things:
- not losing things or getting lost
- not feeling like garbage
So, a few tips to avoid both of those things:
Take a photo of your hotel room number / house number / wifi password
This article on Lifehacker actually is what got me thinking about writing this article based on some of the stuff I’d told Colleen. That article was a reminder to take a photo of your hotel room number so you don’t forget and end up wandering the halls, and that’s something I did every time we stayed in a different hotel when I was traveling with Aspire. The same applies to AirBNB house keypad entry info, wifi passwords, etc.
Store important info
I use a secured photo-storing app to store pictures of all of my important info, like a photo of my passport. (This is also a great spot to store information like travel insurance docs and itineraries so it’s all in one spot.) You can access it via your phone or, if your phone is stolen, by going to their website. I’ve known a few people who’ve lost or had passports stolen, and having a photo of it makes getting it replaced and filing the appropriate reports SO much easier.
Hotels, best restaurants, grocery stores, airports, etc.—you don’t need to spend a ton of time actually labeling spots on your phone, but starring your hotel and relevant spots can make life a lot easier, especially when service is crappy on your phone and searching is taking forever.
Always have (some) cash
I’ve learned in my various visits to different cities and countries that there are still places where cash is king… Honestly, even the corner store by Peter’s parents only takes cash and debit, no credit, and it’s caught me out SO MANY TIMES. And it’s even more true in Europe. So, always have cash on hand when possible. It’s funny to admit, but one of my greatest fears/the fastest way to fluster me is when I realize that I can’t pay by card and I suddenly can’t buy something and have to ask to borrow money. It’s the worst feeling for me!
Earplugs and eyemask, always
I never used to be a stickler for this, and now, I make sure I have an eyemask and earplugs in my purse at all times. Even if you don’t need them, you can be someone’s hero. And you can’t keep your $hit together when you’re traveling and you’re exhausted, so whether they help you sleep better on the plane, get a full night sleep despite a train rattling past your hotel or help fend off a snoring roommate, it’s so nice to feel refreshed—and you feel so much more on top of your $hit!
A protein bar and some electrolyte powder, maybe a couple of Hershey’s kisses—just stash a couple of snack-y things in your purse so when hanger starts to rear its ugly head, you don’t turn into a sobbing, hysterical wreck. Which is 110% a thing that I have done.
A mini first-aid kit
Bandaids, safety pins, Pepto Bismol (or similar), some kind of pain reliever and a tampon = never getting caught out. Again, you can be someone’s best friend. There are a ton of these kits available on Amazon, but you can easily put one together with what you already have at home.
Felt or leather folder
After a lot of ripped tickets and documents, I finally got a cloth folder a few years ago and this thing is so damn useful. Don’t use a paper one—it’ll just get equally banged up. These cheap felt ones will hold all your papers so your bag isn’t a black hole, and you won’t run the risk of ripping or losing important info. Stick a pen and a few sheets of blank paper in there as well!
Less is best, but don’t skimp
I write a lot about the stress of over-packing, then the problems with minimal packing, and I cannot stress the importance of finding the right balance. Always have enough underwear and outerwear, plus clothing that you can wash in a sink without it losing its shape or needing to shrink in the dryer (cheap leggings, I’m looking at you) if you have to. That covers most issues. But the fastest two ways to feel scattered and completely unprepared on a trip are a) wearing dirty underwear, or b) being freezing cold because you skimped on layers. I love the idea of traveling super light, but I also have been that guy who needs to go to the store 10x because I kept realizing I needed a sweatshirt/shampoo/socks… So make sure you have what you need to get through in a pinch.
A bag that converts
I love a bag that can be carried as a backpack or as a duffel. Rolling suitcases might be great for some people, but if you’re with an active group, being able to hoist a bag on your shoulders is a lot easier than rolling on uneven ground. I try to bring a massive backpack (like this one from Osprey—I have an old clamshell backpack from EMS that isn’t available any longer that was the absolute best, but this one is super similar!) and leave enough room in it that I can even put my tote bag into it after the flight, leaving me carrying just the big backpack + a small cross-body bag with the essentials. Walking is so much easier this way!
Long trip out of country considerations…
This is weird but if you’re going to be spending a couple weeks out of the country and you’re known for your clumsiness, might I suggest bringing your beat up old cell phone that *technically* still works? That way if you trash your current one, you’re not completely at the mercy of a phone store in another country and the hassle that goes with it. It’s a lot easier to get your old iPhone 5 reconnected and up and running.